Zynga's Brian Reynolds: Open Feint and Game Center are 'awkward'

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zynga brian reynoldsZynga' Chief Game Designer Brian Reynolds recently met with Games.com - The Blog! to talk about FarmVille, Zynga and the state of the social gaming world.

Among other things, he talked about Zynga's plans (or seeming lack of plans) to take their Facebook games and make them playable on mobile phones. In short, Reynolds says that it has been difficult to recreate the social/Facebook experience on mobile because, well, no one's created a platform that does it right yet -- not even Open Feint and Apple's Game Center, which are the two leading game-centric mobile social networks.

Here's a snippet of the larger conversation:

Zynga has been slow to get its games on mobile. What's the philosophy behind that as a company?

Well, the philosophy up to now, or the obstacles up to now in the mobile space have been -- what I would say are -- ironic obstacles. Cause you think about it, that phone has all your contacts on it, you text people on it, and then you email, and they're all they're on the list. When you hit someone's name, it'll ask you whether you want to text them, or call them, or email them. It's right there on the interface. It's an inherently, natural, social device.

But, as they are built right now, there is a very high friction involved doing some of the important things to do in a social space. Even to do social networking, let alone social gaming. One of the way that Facebook makes it very efficient to network with people, to officially keep in touch with a lot your real friends from the history of your life, is for example, you can broadcast something to all your friends, and they have an easy way to comment or like it, or a very low friction, a quick 'Oh I like that!'. That's the social touch. 'Oh, I remember that person! Yeah, it's cool that they like this. I haven't talked to them in a while. Maybe I'll send them an e-mail!' And that doesn't exist really, correctly yet, on mobile. It's getting there. Slowly getting there.

What about OpenFeint and Game Center?

Yeah, those are all a little bit awkward. OpenFeint feels like multiplayer match-making, which is something... I'm not sure what even Game Center feels like. But what's really missing is I want to be running in Facebook where I'm just naturally playing the game and I can say to my friends: Hello! I'm doing this thing!' and 'Here's this cool thing I did!' or 'Here's this funny joke that the game just wrote for me!' or 'I made this!' You show your pictures on your mobile device. I want to be able to express myself, which the web games do really well, but can they make it so that it's easier for my friends to come see me express myself. There's just too much friction, but the friction is going away. And so the mobile is going to be a really big space for social.

Is Zynga interested in HTML5?

Yes, we're interested in HTML5. Obviously that's a technical word that brings up a whole bunch of technical and political issues.

Like, being able to play your games on any and all platforms.

Yes, we're thinking about all that stuff, and ultimately where we're driving to, is where that kind of social play going to be. We're not going to become just an app company that makes little solo games that you play. That's not what we're interested in. We're interested in the social stuff and so, we're always going to drive to where the social is, and that's where we're going to be. We're really excited about Words With Friends and having that, because that feels like real social interaction. You're playing with your real friends. They've taken a lot of the friction out, and I think more is going to go out. That's kind of the path forward.
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